By Mike Smith
Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz might not have been flawless on Feb. 12, but he was sharp enough, fast enough, and—most importantly—tough enough to come away with a unanimous decision against Joshua Reyes to improve to 9-0 on his young career.
Fighting in front of a rabid home crowd at the last fight card ever to be held at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, Cruz helped to close down an era of boxing history while adding yet another chapter to his own promising legacy.
Cruz sent Reyes (5-2) to the deck early in the first round with a sharp uppercut that brought the crowd to its feet. Reyes recovered quickly though, and Cruz seemed content to box cleverly for the rest of the round instead of charging his foe looking for the early knockout.
“In my head I got excited, but my coach knows me, so I looked to the corner and I listened to what my coach said,” Cruz said after the fight. “That’s my job, to listen to what he says, and he told me to calm down.”
Cruz’s trainer, Ryan O’Leary, was worried his charge might expend too much energy going for the knockout and was pleased to see Pee Wee settle down and start boxing behind the jab after the knockdown.
“The most important thing that he did was keep his composure there,” O’Leary said. “[Reyes] was cold, he wasn’t warmed up yet, so who knew if Pee Wee threw all his punches, threw himself out and the kid comes back strong, then Pee Wee is in trouble in a six round fight.”
Cruz controlled the fight handily through the first four rounds, but ran into a spot of trouble in the fifth, when Reyes’ attempts to muscle him into the corner began to pay-off. Reyes was able to land some power shots, momentarily turning the tide of the fight.
“We knew from the tapes that this kid’s game plan was to use his legs, his little bullish body, to push Pee Wee into the ropes and just wail away,” O’Leary said. “And he was able to do that. Pee Wee was able to come back in the sixth round, but you could see that the umph wasn’t there.”
“I’m not used to fighting going backwards,” Cruz said. “It took a lot of energy to try and box to keep him off me.”
Despite the late push, Reyes was never able to land the fight-changing punch and fell on the cards to Cruz, whose mastery in the first four rounds were enough to put him well ahead in the judges’ eyes.
“I couldn’t ask for a better performance,” O’Leary said. “There are some things I wish he did, like going to the body earlier, but he gave me his reasons for that, so we’re going to watch the tape and try work on that for next time.”
Cruz, a notorious gym rat, said he plans to waste little time in getting ready for his next fight, in which he will look for his 10th
“I’ll be in the gym Monday,” he laughed.
O’Leary echoed his fighter’s sentiment, noting Cruz is always eager to get back to work.
“Pee Wee would be back in the gym tomorrow,” O’Leary said. “If it wasn’t for the blizzard.”